• Home
  • More than Just Addiction: Identifying and Treating Co-occurring Disorders

More than Just Addiction: Identifying and Treating Co-occurring Disorders

Press Release

If you or a loved one have suffered through addiction, you probably understand the close relationship between substance use disorder and other mental health conditions.

This concept is known as "co-occurring disorders" or "dual-diagnoses."

Many people understand that psychiatric conditions and addiction go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, many substance abuse treatment programs treat the disorders as isolated conditions.

This is a huge mistake because the conditions are very interconnected. A comprehensive co-occurring disorders treatment is crucial for preventing relapse and improving a person's quality of life.

Understanding Co-occurring Disorders

Identifying where a person's substance use disorder ends and mental health condition begins is a lot like the chicken-and-egg riddle.

In some cases, an untreated mental health condition like bipolar disorder or depression can cause a person to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. In other cases, substance abuse may trigger the mental health conditions like paranoia, depression, and anxiety.

It's common for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to develop substance abuse, for example, if their condition is left untreated.

At the end of the day, comprehensive co-occurring disorders treatment is really what matters – not figuring out the how's and whys of where the dual-diagnosis came from.

Common disorders that occur with substance abuse include

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mania
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention disorders (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Various mood and personality disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis

A University of Michigan study found mania to be the most common co-occurring disorder with all types of addiction. This isn't surprising when you consider that people suffering from mania tend to experience racing thoughts, irritability, idealistic beliefs, and impulsive behavior.

Co-occurring Disorders Statistics and Prevalence

Co-occurring disorders statistics are fairly difficult to accurately track because many clinicians and treatment centers aren't educated on identification. In fact, many programs treat addiction first and tell patients to figure out their mental health concerns later.

The co-occurring disorders statistics available suggest that these conditions are fairly common.

According to a 2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study, 7.9 million adults struggled with substance abuse disorder and at least one additional mental health condition. The study found that 3% of the entire adult population struggled with substance abuse and any mental illness while an additional 1% faced addiction and a serious mental illness.

A debilitating condition that interferes with a person's ability to work, communicate, and participate in society qualifies as a "serious mental illness." Major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and a handful of other conditions qualify as serious mental illnesses.

Symptoms and Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Substance abuse combined with mental health conditions can be severe or very mild. Someone who feels they need a drink to calm down in anxious situations suffers from a mild form, for example.

If you're watching a loved one from the sidelines or suffering from addiction yourself, you've probably noticed that it's extremely difficult to isolate substance abuse symptoms from mental illness symptoms.

Before jumping into some potential symptoms, keep a few key things in mind.

  • These symptoms are very complex.
  • If a person suffers from substance-induced mental illness, the psychiatric symptoms may recede as the person starts recovering from addiction.
  • It's important to look at a person's behavior and emotions before, during, and after substance use to understand the nature of his or her condition.
  • Each mental health condition has its own set of symptoms.
  • Symptoms may fluctuate depending on substance use.
  • A person may suffer from more than one mental health condition.
  • Only a medical professional can make the official call regarding a dual-diagnosis.

Here are some key signs to watch out for that indicate you or a loved one might be struggling with substance abuse and at least one mental health disorder.

  1. Using drugs or alcohol as a crutch
  2. Isolation or withdrawing from friends and family
  3. Extreme irritability and restlessness
  4. Poor decision making
  5. General apathy
  6. A sense of worthlessness or chronic guilt
  7. Paranoia or chronic worrying
  8. Responding irrationally to normal interactions or situations
  9. Difficulty staying on-task
  10. Frequently missing work or school without justification
  11. Expressing a lack of hope or motivation
  12. Impulsive and spontaneous behavior
  13. Taking dangerous risks (car chases, bar fights, unprotected sex, etc.)
  14. Repetitive or ritualistic behavior
  15. Suicidal thoughts or actions
  16. Self-harm
  17. Extreme highs and lows: impulsive and euphoric manic episodes followed by debilitating depression

What Does Co-occurring Disorders Treatment Look Like?

According to research from the University of Michigan, less than half of people with a dual-diagnosis had received treatment within the past year.

The consequences aren't good. Untreated, long-term substance abuse can lead to chronic health conditions, social isolation, incarceration, poverty, and homelessness. When combined with mental health conditions, the results are even worse.

Unfortunately, many people don't seek treatment on their own for a number of reasons such as accessibility, affordability, fear of losing employment, or pure reluctance. As a result, they often find themselves facing the criminal justice system before any treatment program. This is exactly why jails contain a disproportionately high number of people with substance abuse and mental health conditions.

Dual-diagnoses are extremely difficult to treat. They require comprehensive care from attentive, educated, and experienced professionals. This may include

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to change thought patterns and influence positive actions
  • 12-step programs to work through the addiction on a personal level
  • Identifying and avoiding relapse triggers
  • Medication for psychiatric conditions
  • Counseling or talk therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy to build healthy communication
  • Effective discharge planning to construct a successful recovery

How Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital Can Help

At Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, we understand that treating underlying mental health conditions is a vital component of treating addiction. That's why we offer a comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment program.

Our dual-diagnosis program includes detoxification (if applicable), psychiatric medication management, evidence-based relapse prevention techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, and thorough discharge planning to give patients the tools they need to succeed.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction compounded with mental health conditions, contact us today for a free confidential assessment or call us anytime at 877-510-1909.